I still remember my life as a student. Just like most of the children of my age, I was very self-conscious, dealing all the time with peer pressure, pressure to make my parents proud when they see my report card in other words, devote my entire time into studying.
My funda in life was simple, sleep as little as possible (I considered sleeping, a waste of time), no watching TV (even if it meant daily news), never eat too much (because food makes you sleepy) and utilize all the time I had saved from not recreating into studying.
It had its own pros and cons, although it made my report card very attractive to my parent's delight but it also drifted me from reality. In other words, my world was limited to my study room, forget about the outside world, I dint know who my neighbors were.
Until one day I came shockingly close to reality.
It was an internal elocution competition which was conducted once a year in my school, I had been winning it for 3 years in a row and this one was my last competition ( I was in my 12th grade).
This was more of a prestige issue than just participation. I promised myself, no matter what, I am gonna win this.
The topic given to us this year, unlike the previous years were more socially relevant. And the topic given to me was " AFTERMATH OF THE GODHRA VIOLENCE".
My confidence smashed into pieces, I knew that there was some violence in Gujarat, lot of people died, something to do with Hindu-Muslim clash but what exactly happened, how did the incident start, what fueled it, I knew nothing about it. Nevertheless, we were given 4 days to prepare, and somewhere, I knew I could do it.
The same day, I started my research. What caught my attention was, "1044 people were killed in the violence - 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus including those killed in the Godhra train fire. Another 223 people were reported missing, 2,548 injured, 919 women widowed and 606 children orphaned".
My jaw dropped, what the hell was I doing when all this was happening in my own country, not that I could do anything about it but atleast I had known. What came next was more disgusting and shocking, it was about a minor family, the head of the family was brutally mutilated in front of his wife and 5 children ( all girls between 6-14 years) and each of them were raped and set on fire alive. Hundreds of other family suffered the same fate.
This was just the beginning, as I read on, never in my imagination I knew this coming, a high profile case involved an Ex-Congress Ehsan Jafri, who was surrounded by Hindu mobs, 2000 of them while many other Muslim residents in the area took shelter in his compound. Jafri was believed to have contacted the local police stations, MPs of the area as well as the Chief Minister to save the people from the ever increasing mob. However, no police reinforcement had reached his place and the few policemen present were ineffective and unwilling to control the violent mob. What came next was, the mob chopped off his hand and legs with the sword and burnt him with 50 other Muslims.
The Aftermath of the Godhra violence was just an eye wash, BJP-led central government demanded the dismissal of Gujarat Chief Minister for failing to contain the violence, who got re-elected later. Followed by atleast 29 people getting killed when Islamic fundamentalist gunmen engaged in the Akshardham Temple attack in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
My eyes grew faint as my heart sank, there is so much of filthiness in the world that sometimes you are bound to think, what is the purpose of my life. What is that I am going to achieve by studying which will make the world a better place to live. Somehow that day, I realized the most effective learning comes form the world outside and not from the textbooks. It is not important to be a scholar, but it is more important to be a good human.
I won my last competition in school but more than that I was happy to have learnt how valuable FORGIVENESS is. I knew how resentment and hatred can cruely exploit human mind.
It has been over 6 yrs now, but the entire incident is as fresh as ever.....
History does nothing; it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles. It is men, real, living, who do all this. --- KARL MARX